Sunday, January 9, 2011

FPA: an old, forgotten method for estimation

(Originally comment on InfoQ)
I don't really use new stuff which has an "agile" vignette on them even in an agile environment.

An FPA estimation spreadsheet

In the most agile team I had, a real agile one (own company, only developers, own product, full commitment, cycles and so on) - and even afterwards, I used a modified version of the Function Point Analysis.

What does it say?
- Every user story will sure have some datasources to get data from. Say these are Input Forms (IFs). Let's say creating such a form takes 5 points.

- Every user story will surely have some outputs. Let's call them Output Forms. Let's say it takes 4 point to create them

- Every user story will have to deal with some internal datastructures - tables, files, so on. Let's see how many distinct classes (tables, filetypes) seem to be involved; let's say developing handling of such a type is about 9 points, and call them Internal Logical Files (ILFs)

- Some user stories will have to deal with systems not within reach; these could be unknown libraries, web service APIs, maybe even the mailsystem. Let's say handling such stuff is 12 points.

Then, for each of the stories, we have a formula, like:
Creating a login screen = 1 IF, 1 OF, 2 ILF, 0 EX

Add them together multiplied:
1 x 4 + 1 x 5 + 2 x 9 + 0 x 12 = 18 FP (function point)

We could have also additional measures, but this will make them ok.

Now we have to determine how much time does it take to create a single function point. It takes a lot of efforts; my agile team had about 0.5 hours, the enterprise team was sometimes as slow as 2 hours. So, creating a login form with all bells and whistles takes about a day, or a week, depending wether you are in a small, enthusiastic company, or in an enterprise cubicle. Makes a lot of sense, even if you don't like the results.

Also the factors could be changed.

It's not agile, but this method was able to provide +-10% efficiency; so, after the second iteration, it's expected that a two week sprint's products cannot be late more than a day.

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